Sunderland Metro and bus passenger numbers bouncing back from pandemic - but still remain lower than pre-covid levels

Public transport use in Sunderland and across the region is on the rise again following the impact of Covid-19, according to council chiefs.

By Nic Marko
Thursday, 7th April 2022, 3:57 pm

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Sunderland City Council transport officers reported the return of more residents to buses and the Metro has been positive after they were hit by the impact of the pandemic.

Mark Jackson, council assistant director of infrastructure, planning and transportation, noted they had previously seen a low number of passengers due to the various restrictions, with financial support being provided by the Government.

He added figures have “slowly gone up”, after levels reflected what had been going on with various Covid-19 restrictions, and they are now much closer to pre-pandemic rates..

Metro passengers are now nearing pre-covid levels.

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He said: “The number of people using buses and public transport generally have been so low over the past year.

“Since Covid hit back in March 2020 public transport patronage fell away to pretty much 5% on Metro and about 10% on buses with immediate effect.

“At this moment in time it’s a positive thing, the Metro now as of last week was at about 92% of its pre-Covid levels, which is really positive, because Metros are obviously heavily reliant on the fares.

“Also the bus services across Tyne and Wear, they are back up to probably the low 70s%, they had been higher, they had been nearly 80% and they dropped back away again.”

Buses in a quiet Fawcett Street during the first national lockdown.

The comments came at the latest meeting of the council’s economic prosperity scrutiny committee on Tuesday (April 5), where councillors received a brief update on public transport in the region.

Mr Jackson said a more in depth report would come forward in the coming months following Government funding announcements just this week.

It was revealed by the Department for Transport (DfT) on Monday a Bus Service Improvement Plan for the North East had won more than £163million of Government backing for the next three years.

Around £74million will be for capital projects, such as improving bus infrastructure, with just under £90m for issues such as improved fares and services.

The allocation is lower than the original £804million proposal the North East had lodged a bid for last year however.

Mr Jackson added: “Obviously there’s a significant difference, so for the next few weeks we’ll be negotiating and having discussions about where that money should go.”